The future, fast-tracked
From virtual reality to machine learning, the latest in technological developments are hot topics all around the world. Products that were little more than science fiction a decade ago can now be bought from your local store.
We’ve put together seven of this year’s most remarkable inventions that are changing the way we work, play, travel and view the world around us.
Virtual reality (VR) technology has come a long way, even since last year. In 2016, Oculus released the revolutionary Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, which must be connected to a compatible PC; ideally a high-end gaming computer.
This year, they’ve created a wireless, self-contained VR headset, the Oculus Go. It’s also less than half the price of its predecessor. We’re yet to see how it compares with Oculus Rift, as its release date is sometime early in 2018. If it’s as successful as anticipated, it will likely be the first of many increasingly compact, mobile VR headsets.
Another headset that’s transforming experiences – and lives – is eSight 3, electronic glasses that artificially restore vision in the visually impaired and legally blind.
The glasses use a high speed, HD camera to capture the user’s surroundings and present full-colour, lag-less video images to the user in real time.
According to eSight, users can see with a level of clarity that barely differs from natural vision.
It’s designed to be used in a variety of environments – from home to office and while exercising; drastically reducing the lifestyle impacts of visual impairment.
Unfortunately, it cannot help the small percentage of visually impaired people who are totally blind.
eSight 3 has an understandably high price tag, but impact it can have on quality of life makes it an invaluable investment.
For its latest, and arguably greatest, instalment in the iPhone series, Apple has removed the iconic and ever-useful home button. It’s another step in a new direction for the iPhone – coming after the iPhone 7 came sans headphone jack; a change that was received quite poorly, overall.
The tech giant claims that this gradual re-invention of the iPhone is in the interest of letting go of the past and embracing future technologies.
The iPhone X features an all-screen display, which complements Apple’s recent augmented reality (AR) framework, ARKit, which came with the iOS 11 software update. This gives users a more seamless experience with the growing selection of AR apps now available from the App Store. It also introduces facial recognition technology as an alternative to passcode or thumb-print unlocking. This Face ID feature also allows users to pay for goods with their face via Apple Pay.
The iPhone X’s price tag reflects its impressive array of innovative features, coming in at $999 – the most expensive iPhone to date.
Allergy sufferers, clean freaks and the generally health-conscious: Molekule is your salvation. This company has created a 58cm x 21cm self-contained, cylindrical air purifier that draws in and destroys pollutants, on a molecular level. The purifier is portable via a convenient handle and claims to be capable of completely replacing the air in a 55 square metre room every hour.
Molekule uses a new, patented technology, called Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO), to break down mould, allergens, viruses, gases and bacteria in to harmless elements, which are then released into the newly purified air. The company claims that its device can purify air pollutants that are 1,000 times smaller than what current leading air filters are capable of, and that it emits no harmful by-products.
Molekule received significant funding from both the US Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense, which is understandable when considering the implications this technology has outside of the home.
Price: $799, plus an optional $99 annual filter subscription
Forward is an advanced doctor’s office slash health service that may well be the future of healthcare, for those who can afford it.
Launched in January by former Google, Facebook and Uber staff, in San Francisco, Forward is empowering doctors with new technology that will help them track and monitor patients’ health and chronic conditions, as well as predict future health issues.
For US$150 per month, patients will receive a number of preliminary hour-long appointments, where Forward’s patented scanner analyses their weight, heart rate and other vital signs, as well as skin and eye health.
Comprehensive patient data is recorded and analysed to detect trends and issues. They also offer genetic testing to detect possible predispositions for cancer. The health membership service also provides typical doctors’ services, such as prescriptions and blood tests.
Several Hollywood stars seem to have faith in Forward, with Ashton Kutcher and Matthew McConaughey among investors who have committed a reported US$100 million to the cause.
Price: US$150 per month
The Model 3 is Tesla’s latest instalment in its range of space-age innovations, designed to revolutionise personal transport with safety and sustainability in mind. It’s the company’s first 'affordable' vehicle, with prices starting at only US$35,000.
For reference, the 2010 Tesla Roadster base model set owners back US$109,000.
The Model 3 is touted as being at least on-par with BMW’s hit 3 Series luxury sports sedans, with its 50kWh battery base model capable of going from 0 to 60mph in 5.6 seconds. It weighs a significant 400 pounds less than its older cousin, the Model S.
The fully electric vehicle will need to be recharged every 220 miles at one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations, with the company claiming that recharging the vehicle will cost less than filling up an equivalent petrol-fuelled car.
The surprisingly spacious four-seater will feature Tesla’s standard driverless Autopilot capabilities and will be equipped with the components needed to improve its autonomous functions as updates are released.
Despite raising $1.2B to launch the Model 3 and avoid delays, production rates have failed to meet demand and keen reservation-holders may not receive the vehicle until some time in 2018.
Price: starting at around US$35,000
Michelin’s futuristic Vision concept airless tyre is an amalgamation of four innovative technologies: airless, organic, rechargeable and connected.
The Vision concept is a 3D-printed tyre and wheel, combined into a single assembly. The tyre is built from biodegradable, organic materials that are designed to be easily recycled at the end of the tyre’s life.
According to Michelin, the materials can be customised according to the driver’s needs, such as off-road and winter weather conditions. Its webbed structure is designed to be immune to air-based tyre mishaps, such as flats and blowouts.
The ‘rechargeable and connected’ aspects of the Vision concept tyre refer to the intuitive sensors embedded in the assembly. They can diagnose their own maintenance requirements and detect road conditions – information that is fed back to the driver. When the sustain damage or tread wear, they can be ‘recharged’ (repaired) at 3D printing kiosks.
These capabilities have been included with the roadways of the future in mind. There’s currently no set release date for the tyre; however, estimates suggest that it may be another five to 10 years before we’ll see these tyres on the road.